Eye on KELOLAND

Gun Owners Making Theft Easy

Sioux Falls, S.D. - Do you know where your gun is right now? The number of guns being stolen out of cars in Sioux Falls is growing. What may be more surprising is the fact that in many instances those cars were unlocked.

Guns can be a deadly weapon. Unfortunately, more and more are ending up in the hands of criminals.

"We've been seeing here lately, on a weekly basis, we're seeing reports of firearms being taken out of unlocked vehicles," said Sioux Falls Police Chief Matt Burns. 

"You just reported last month that the police department had eight guns stolen in 12 days from unlocked cars. So that shows the problem," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead. 

Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead says the problem is everywhere. Not just Sioux Falls. He says it's a crime of opportunity.

These typically young people will walk any neighborhood or drive out to country homes, just trying to open cars that may be left unlocked. If they find a gun, they see money and protection.

"Our officers, our police officers, our deputies, they're already dealing with enough armed individuals out there already. Now you've got armed criminals that are car hopping at night with guns that they've stolen. It's just a dangerous situation," said Milstead. 

"And they're being traded for drugs in our city all the time. So the currency of exchange in the drug world is not just cash, it's not just other things. But it's firearms, too," said Burns. 

So why are so many more guns being stolen from unlocked cars suddenly?

"More people are comfortable having guns in their possession. For concealed carry permits, we're like around 10,000 for concealed carry permits. So as those numbers increase and the frequency of car hopping increases that chance of them that the car they enter having a firearm in it is becoming more and more common," said Milstead. 

With a growing problem like this, we asked what is being done for prevention? Both Police Chief Matt Burns and Milstead say there's not much that can be done, besides remind gun owners to use common sense.

Both men agree creating laws to punish a gun owner who leaves the weapon in an unlocked car is not the answer.

"South Dakota law is very clear and prohibits municipalities from having any sort of regulation on firearms and things like that. So that's a bit of a stretch there to believe that some sort of law or sanction would be in place that a victim, who's the victim of a crime themselves, would face some sort of penalty," said Burns. 

"You know, because you would be taking legit, lawful gun owners and making them criminals because we're trying to prevent other criminals from stealing their guns. I hate to make lawful gun owners into criminals," said Milstead. 

Milstead says he would much prefer gun owners just do what they're supposed to; which is lock up the dangerous weapon they don't want being used to hurt others.

"You'd feel horrible if your gun was stolen out of your car, where you'd left it unlocked. And ultimately it ends up being used by somebody to kill somebody, to rob somebody, to commit a violent crime," said Milstead.

"It comes down to kind of common sense. When you have an item that is a deadly weapon, when used appropriately with appropriate training it can be and is 90 plus percent of the time, 95 percent of the time very, very safe. But it's when those items are left unattended, unlocked and unsecure; that's when problems arise," said Burns. 

There are vaults that can be attached to your vehicle, to help secure your weapons if you want to keep them in your car. Burns says it's best to just take them inside and lock them up every night.
 


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